Repost: Gaming as Education, Gaming to Save the Earth?

Originally published on July 15th, 2010

I was shown an exceptional TED talk today that dealt with the implications of gaming to our world, and drew me into a world that I will admit I sit on the periphery of.  The TED speaker below is Jane McGonigal, and she proposes that we use the gaming industry to lead the change needed in our world by not cutting back our game play, but adding to it.

Jane McGonigal – Ted Talk

One important idea from this video was the parallel she makes between hours of gaming and Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours.  The funny thing about it is, from the time a child is in Kindergarten to Grade 12, they will have amassed well over the 10,000 hours of educational experiences.  Even if we focused only on grades 9-12, students will amass nearly half of the 10,000 hours that could relate to the Gladwellian concept.  It begs the question, what are we getting them good at?  If we made school about a concerted effort to develop passions, interests and identified future career pathways, we really could be giving students an advantage for their life after school.

So back to the premise Jane puts forward, what if we can turn gaming into a project to do right in the world?  What if we harness the power of the internet and gaming to create links for students, to socially connect them, and to give them the massive project in a framed setting of fixing what we need to fix.  The power of this learning would be immense, and it truly fits the concepts of 21st Century Learning.  In fact, as I think about the curriculum I work with, I can certainly see that there are links to what Jane points out as the positive elements of gaming.  So why don’t we play World of Warcraft in class?  Why are we so afraid to really meet students where they are?  I think of a point in the future where I as a teacher wait for my students in one of these digital games, and we collaborate online as a team to solve a challenge, but I suppose I would need to know these games first.  I hope in the context of the film I don’t sound like I’m too off base here, but it really does fit with my belief structure.  I firmly believe in meeting the students on their terms; I teach with iPods because I want students to learn how to make use of the devices for more than entertainment purposes, to collaborate, create, record, and publish.  Isn’t Jane really proposing the same thing?  Let’s meet the gamers where they are getting the joy and pleasure that they desire, and link our world’s needs into that culture to enact change.  That seems very logical to me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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